This is what an editor looks like, right?
Image from Dreamstime
I went to When Words Collide, a local writers and readers conference, this weekend. I attended last year, and enjoyed it enough to attend again this year. Of course, we put on a NaNoWriMo panel that went really well (much better than we anticipated), but there were so many other highlights that I couldn’t even begin to share them all with you now. Maybe in the coming days, as I have time to process all that I have learned, I will be able to summarize some of the key lessons. Most of the best information was actually shared by Kevin J. Anderson and his lovely wife Rebecca Moesta, and I suspect that I will be telling you a little bit more about those lessons as well.
The theme of this weekend seemed to be taking risks. First off, I signed up for a blue pencil cafe (a one-on-one with an author or editor to review the first few pages of a manuscript). Sadly, mine was a little rushed, because another author had to cancel so they tried to shove us all through, but I still got some valuable feedback. Second, I decided somewhat last minute to attend a Live Action Slush Pile (more on this in a bit). Finally, my partner was brave enough (and ready enough) to try pitching to a local publisher and was asked to submit a few chapters. So positive news all around.
What I really wanted to talk about today was confidence. I’ve blogged before that I’m new to sending my work out for others and a little worried about rejection. I’ve only submitted one story to date, and that was for a writing competition (I wasn’t even long listed) with no harsh letter or feedback on the other end of it. So when I submitted my first page to the Live Action Slush Pile on Saturday night, I was nervous. The point of a Live Action Slush is for editors to listen to a bit of your manuscript and decide whether they liked it or when they would stop reading if they were reading from a slush pile at a publishing house. My poor first chapter only made it through two paragraphs before three of the four readers stopped.
At first, I was crushed. I worked hard at that opening paragraph, and I thought it was pretty good. It didn’t help when the two entries after mine were writers that I know and were read all the way through. I tried to brush it off, but it was pretty clear to me that it still needed a lot of work. In what was perhaps a backwards sense of timing, on Sunday I decided to attend a panel about fighting fear and rejection. While it didn’t reveal much to me that I didn’t already know, at least superficially, it was positive to hear that everyone else had some of the same problems with confidence as I do, especially at first.
I learned that emotions (especially fear) can colour how you receive a response, that I need sounding boards beyond friends and family (maybe my critique group is good enough?), and that it’s okay to be upset about a rejection, like I was the night before. The most important thing that I picked up, though, was that we are in the business of no. 99 times out of 100, the answer will be no. And although that’s hard, that’s the nature of writing.
So I’m going to try and look at my submissions a little differently from now on. From now on, I am a rejections collector. I’m going to collect as many rejections as I can and get more than anyone else that I know. And eventually, maybe after the first 99 NOs, I’ll finally get a YES.
How do you handle rejection and disappointment?